Barcelona are at the center of the transfer backlog across Europe

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It was July 1 and Chelsea were trying to mean business. The new ownership, led by American Todd Boehly, was about to close its first major signing after reaching an agreement with Leeds United for Brazilian winger Raphinha.

neither The Athletic reported, the price tag was set in the region of £60 million, with most of it up front. Chelsea were then allowed to go to the next step, and started planning a medical for the 25-year-old. Standard procedure. There was just one unexpected issue: that medical never happened.

Indirectly responsible for all this were a club in a very entangled situation; a side threatened by long-term and short-term debt and keeping daily contact with investment companies to sort out an impossible jigsaw on their numbers. This was, of course, Barcelona.

The Catalans have been following Raphinha for months. After Chelsea got an agreement with Leeds, the Brazilian’s agent — former Barcelona and Chelsea star, Deco — jetted off to the Camp Nou to update the club.

Barca agreed to make a last-minute push for Raphinha to secure his transfer. It was a dream move for the 25-year-old, who waited for the club, and added pressure to the prospective deal.

The Athletic reported on Monday that the two clubs were edging close to an agreement and that is now, finally, imminent with Raphinha expected to travel to Barcelona today.

Yet Barcelona are still finding it tough to register new players. To bring in a new signing under La Liga rules, they need to recoup €3 for every €1 spent on new salaries.

However, the club is not only absolutely willing to spend — they are dictating the tempos of the summer planning of multiple European giants. As incredible as it sounds, top clubs have to wait for Barcelona to solve their issues to progress with their own transfers.

Probably the highest-profile example is Robert Lewandowski.

After averaging 50 goals in all competitions across the past three seasons, the striker said after clinching his last Bundesliga title that his time at Bayern Munich might have come to an end.

Lewandowski reaffirmed this point weeks later while on international duty. He has one year left on his contract at Bayern but is determined to join Barcelona this summer. His agent, Pini Zahavi, and Barcelona president Joan Laporta have been working on a deal for a while.

Lewandowski


Lewandowski is keen to move to Barcelona from Bayern Munich (Photo: Getty)

Sources from Barcelona are impressed by the willingness and commitment shown by Lewandowski and his camp to push for a move. Despite being 33, having an elite player campaigning to join the club boosts morale at the Camp Nou.

And again, this causes collateral damage to another top European club.

Bayern Munich are not just about to lose their biggest attacking threat; they need to execute a plan to replace him as soon as possible.

The German club is working on a strategy if a deal for Lewandowski is completed. Bayern executive Hasan Salihamidzic confirmed negotiations for Juventus defender Matthijs De Ligt, which would be a blockbuster deal, and the money earned for Lewandowski would play a key role.

So Juventus are also waiting to see what happens at Camp Nou.

Laporta confirmed last week that an offer has been sent to Bayern for Lewandowski.

“We have made an offer that they will be evaluating and we are waiting for the answer,” he said. According to reports in Germany, Bayern would demand around €50-55 million to seal the deal.

Lewandowski reported back to training with the German champions on Tuesday. The team will travel at the end of the week to the United States to start their pre-season tour.

It is in the interests of all parties to have the operation sorted before then. It is well-documented, though, that Barcelona moves are not always dominated by their sports choices but by the club’s economic state. Everyone has to sit and wait.

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Leeds headed out to Australia for their pre-season tour leaving Raphinha in the UK. His case has multiple ramifications for multiple clubs. First of all for Leeds, who are waiting for the deal to finally be completed so they can use the money on their pursuit of a new striker.

“We are actively hunting a striker and I feel like if we get a striker, that will feel pretty close to full strength and feel good about the group,” Leeds head coach Jesse Marsch said last week.

Club Brugge’s 21-year-old forward Charles De Ketelaere has been reported as the main target. Sealing Raphinha’s exit would massively help in moving their planning forward.

Chelsea simply did not know if they could land Tuchel’s desired winger, but were waiting for news from Barcelona before focusing on other players. Even on Monday, they could still not assume the Raphinha transfer saga was over.

The last club affected in the merry-go-round are Arsenal, who were also keen on Raphinha. Their proposal did not get to such advanced stages as Chelsea’s, but the Brazilian core of players Mikel Arteta has gathered at the club could have been a turning point for the winger.

There are three more clubs whose agendas have been affected by Barcelona — but because of other potential deals.

Chelsea will still be in this mix with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso. Both have been heavily linked to Barcelona. It is understood they were two main names discussed in the meeting Boehly held at the restaurant Via Veneto in Barcelona, ​​alongside Laporta and club executives Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff.

They would be cheaper deals than Raphinha as both Azpilicueta and Alonso are entering the final year of their contracts. It is understood, though, that Barcelona will not make the next move until they manage to ease some economic pressure.

So what actually needed to happen at the Camp Nou to start the domino effect of signings and potential offers?

As difficult as it is to find reasonable explanations to Barca’s situation, sources from the club insist their “economic levers” are ready to be pulled.

“We have several well-advanced operations, waiting for our ‘second lever’ to be activated. Then we will be able to execute signings and please our manager,” Laporta added last week.

The “second lever” will be another 15 percent sale of their future TV rights, potentially to investment company Sixth Street, which could be valued around £300 million.

There is another potential issue Barcelona faces. How probable will it be for them to convince certain squad members — for example, Frenkie de Jong — to take a salary cut while the club is closing in on expensive new signings?

It is understood this was one of the topics discussed last season when the club were in talks with Frenchman Ousmane Dembele over a new contract. While the club was getting used to their new economic reality, a £47 million fee was agreed with Manchester City for Ferran Torres last January.

It did not end up affecting Dembele’s case, though. The 25-year-old winger is set to put pen to paper on a two-year contract extension, taking a 40 percent salary cut.

It is just another factor in a seemingly endless list that influences any transfer activity at the Camp Nou.

But the fact Barcelona are still able to postpone medicals at Chelsea, to lure Bayern Munich’s biggest star, or tempt two Spanish international defenders into switching the Premier League for La Liga magnifies confidence inside the club.

There is a sense that a part of their greatness, despite the reality check of financial problems in recent years, might still remain.

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